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Bercow refers to Lib Dems idea for separate constituency for Speaker

December 13, 2009 4:46 PM

Mr Speaker Bercow has mentioned the option of a switch to a new seat, with only MPs as his 'constituents', in line with a proposal which local Lib Dems made in September.

In an interview with Total Politics magazine (reported in the Mail on Sunday, December 13th, 2009) Mr Bercow, MP for Buckingham constituency, brought up the possibility of the separate Speaker's constituency, `known as St Stephen's, representing a small area around Westminster'.

Local Lib Dems put forward this proposal when it became clear local voters would be deprived of a vote for the main parties at the forthcoming General Election, due to the generally held convention that the speaker is not opposed at elections.

Lib Dem MPs then backed the suggestion that some sort of honorary constituency - where the electorate are the MPs themselves - might be one way to give local electors a proper choice at a by-election, while safeguarding the position of the Speaker.

It would involve abandoning his Buckingham seat for the newly created one called St Stephen's - the name of the old House of Commons chapel - where, effectively, it would be impossible for anyone who was not an MP to challenge him.

Mr Bercow said if the custom whereby the Commons Speaker is not challenged by the main parties is ended, it could be hard for any Speaker to survive for more than one parliamentary term.

He told Total Politics: `it is suggested perhaps what should be done is that the Speaker should be given a separate constituency, usually known as St Stephen's, which represents a small area around Westminster, and that the local constituency he or she is taken from should be able to hold a normal party election.

`The House of Commons can always decide to do that if it wants. My attitude is that, as such a decision would affect me directly, it's not right for me to be either an advocate of it or resistant to it. The only thing I would say is I do enjoy having constituents and believe that I'm still well and truly able effectively to represent the people of my constituency. I do just want to underline the fact that it is both possible and it would be necessary for the Speaker to continue to be a highly active constituency MP, but I won't face, I suspect, major party competition, but I will face opponents.'

The Speaker's original constituency would hold a normal election and choose a new MP, he explained.

Any election challenge would have to be made on an individual - not a party - basis, making it harder to unseat the Speaker.

The Mail on Sunday story is at

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1235365/Speaker-sack-official-MPs-expenses.html

The TOTAL POLITICS Bercow interview with Iain Dale is now available in full at:

http://www.totalpolitics.com/magazine_detail.php?id=683